Satisfied, Well Paid, and Secure

Published on: 
BioPharm International, BioPharm International-01-01-2008, Volume 21, Issue 1

Our second annual salary survey assesses not only how much people earn, but also how they feel about it.

The data from BioPharm International's second annual salary survey are in, and the results are clear: the biopharmaceutical industry is the place to be. Our respondents are paid well and like their work. And surprisingly enough, they feel pretty secure in their jobs, despite the constant ups and downs of small biotech companies, and the increasing pressures at some bigger biotechs this year.

Laura Bush

BioPharm International's market research department conducted the survey in the fall of 2007. The survey was e-mailed to 24,276 readers around the globe, and generated 536 responses. To encourage participation, all survey respondents were entered into a drawing to win one of five $100 gift cards. The maximum statistical error of the survey, at a 95% confidence level, is +4.2%. (Some percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding.)


Figure 1 shows the breakdown of respondents' job functions. The functions best represented by the survey were research (20%), quality assurance (19%), process development (12%), and analytical development (10%).

The vast majority (74%) of survey respondents are from the US. Another 14% are from Europe, (including 3% from the UK), 4% are from India, and 4% are from Canada. About half work in publicly traded companies, 37% in privately held firms, 6% in academic institutions, 4% in government, and 2% in nonprofit organizations. About 1% are self-employed.

A little more than a third (37%) of respondents work in biopharmaceutical manufacturing companies, 21% in small-molecule pharmaceutical companies with a biotech focus, and 9% in research institutes. Most of our respondents work in fairly large companies: 52% work in companies with 1,000 employees or more, and another 10% work in companies employing between 500 and 1,000 people.

Highly Experienced

The industry experience levels of our respondents were fairly high: almost a third (28%) have been in the industry between 16 and 25 years. If we add to those the 19% who have worked in their field for 11 to 15 years, we see that 47% of our respondents have worked in their field more than 10 years. They haven't spent all that time in one company or job, however; only 17% have been with their current companies for 11 years or more. Another 20% have been with their current companies for six to 10 years. A little more than half of our respondents (54%) have worked with their current company or organization for five years or fewer.

Figure 1



So how much do people in the biopharmaceutical industry earn? As shown in Figure 2, the mean salary in the United States is $92,832, and the mean in Europe is €70,699 (approximately $96,858, converted at an average exchange rate over 2007 of €1=$1.37). In the US, 34% of respondents earn more than $100,000; 30% earn between $75,001 and $100,000; and 36% earn $75,000 or less. The salary breakdown among European respondents was similar: 38% earn more than €70,000 ($95,900); 23% earn between €50,001 and 70,000 ($68,501 to $95,900); and 38% earn €50,000 or less ($68,501 or lower).

Figure 2

These figures are considerably higher than those reported in our 2006 survey, in which the US mean was $71,874, and the European mean was €44,407. The increases were consistent in almost all segments studied (e.g., gender, US versus Europe, job field, job title). Despite a careful analysis of the data for outliers, and comparing this year's raw data to last year's, we have not found any indications that this year's numbers are distorted. It seems unlikely, however, that the industry overall experienced such dramatic increases. We will have to see next year's survey results to try to identify which set of numbers, this year's or last year's, better reflects the industry.

Figure 3


Similar to last year, this year's survey showed that the US biotech jobs with the highest salaries included corporate management, information technology, legal, and plant engineering (Figure 3). The response levels were very low in the legal and information technology categories, however, so it is not clear if the reported salary levels for those job functions are representative.


Even in a progressive field like biotechnology, a significant gender gap exists when it comes to salaries, both in the overall numbers and by job function. The list below shows the salary gap for four key job responsibilities in the US. The largest gap was in regulatory affairs ($29,164), and the smallest difference was in analytical development ($14,078).

  • Regulatory affairs: men, $116,974; women, $87,810

  • Quality assurance: men, $91,166; women, $70,086

  • Process development: men, $93,386; women, $72,453

  • Analytical development: men, $91,541; women, $77,463.

Last year's survey also showed a significant gender gap in salaries, but with a different breakdown. Last year showed a $13,000 salary gap for quality assurance professionals, whereas this year's data shows a $21,000 gap. The 2006 survey showed a much smaller gender disparity in salaries in process development: $3,000 versus $21,000. These differences are likely a result of the sample size.

Interestingly, female respondents to our survey are younger on average than male respondents (39 versus 44), and enter higher salary brackets at younger ages (Figure 4).


Overall, our respondents feel secure in their jobs. Seventy-three percent (73%) of respondents said they feel "secure," "very secure," or "extremely secure" in their current jobs. This sense of security continues despite the fact that, like last year, 47% have been through a merger, acquisition, or downsizing within the last 2 years. Perhaps the secure feeling remains because only 6% (16 people) were laid off as a result of such corporate upheaval, and a little more than half (51%) said they were unaffected by the process. The rest said their job responsibilities changed (37%) as a result of a merger or downsizing activity or that they chose to leave their companies voluntarily (5%).

Figure 4

Well Prepared and Continuing to Train

Most respondents (85%) also feel their academic background has served them in their current job functions: 42% say their education prepared them extremely well or well, and 43% say it prepared them adequately. Job experience has proven more valuable: 73% of respondents say their employment experience prepared them extremely well or well for their current role; another 23% say it prepared them adequately.

Most respondents also work for companies that support their continued professional development: 82% say their organizations pay for them to attend conferences; 81% say the same for outside courses or workshops; and 75% receive in-house training. Many also wrote in that their companies offer tuition reimbursement for university courses.

So Why Leave a Good Job?

When they considered the reasons that might cause them to leave their jobs within the next year, the majority (77%) cited reasons of their own choosing. The biggest reasons were better salary (32%), more satisfying work (19%), a geographical move (9%), or a better work environment or hours (10%).


Overall, professionals in the biopharmaceutical industry like what they do (Figure 5). The vast majority (88%) of our respondents are satisfied with their jobs, with more than half of those (45% of the total respondents) describing themselves as "extremely satisfied" or "very satisfied" with their jobs.

What They Like About Their Jobs

To probe further into the job satisfaction levels of industry professionals, we asked two open-ended questions: "What is your greatest source of job satisfaction?" and "What is your greatest source of job dissatisfaction?" The numbers of responses by themselves were telling: 391 people answered the first question, and only 61 people answered the second.

Figure 5

Overwhelming, the greatest source of job satisfaction cited was a sense of accomplishment in a job well done. Our readers enjoy improving processes, meeting deadlines, and moving drugs through the development pipeline. Others expressed pride in advancing science and technology. Many also felt the direct connection to helping patients.

The biggest other source of job satisfaction was the opportunity to tackle challenges, solve problems, and learn and grow in the process. Lastly, industry professionals work in a positive environment and enjoy good teamwork, including mentoring others. They also feel respected and appreciated by colleagues and managers.

What They Don't Like

Of the 61 people who answered the question, "What is your greatest source of job dissatisfaction?" the most common source of complaint, with 28 responses, was management. The concerns ranged from micromanagement, to a lack of leadership focus, to concerns about management decisions. The other major sources of dissatisfaction were lack of growth opportunities (11 answers), lack of empowerment (4 answers), and a sense of not being valued or supported (10 answers).


BioPharm International's second annual international salary survey shows once again that the biopharmaceutical industry is a great place to work. Industry professionals are well paid, secure, and have many opportunities to continue their professional development. They enjoy the challenge of their jobs and feel valued by their colleagues and superiors. Most importantly, they gain a strong sense of accomplishment from their contributions to their companies, the industry, and patients. What more could you ask for?

Laura Bush is the editor in chief of BioPharm International, 732.346.3020,